4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
In the Old Testament, nine hundred years before Christ, great King Solomon instructed God’s people to build a Temple in the holy city of Jerusalem. It was the place where God’s people could go to meet with God and to pray. It was the place where the priests offered sacrifices to God, not just at the great festivals but every day. Some were sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. Others were the appointed sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins. So the Temple was the place where God’s people could find forgiveness. Solomon’s Temple became the heart of the spiritual life of Israel for hundreds of years. That was a vital part of the Old Covenant. But since Jesus, God’s purposes are not focused on a physical building any more.
Since Jesus, God’s cosmic masterplan of salvation now is to create a living building, a spiritual house, made up of holy priests offering spiritual sacrifices of worship and praise and loving service to God through Jesus Christ. The building blocks in this new and living temple building are Christian believers – you and me. We thought about God’s cosmic masterplan of salvation this time last year in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
Ephesians 2 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Phillips Brooks wrote, “Slowly, through all the universe the temple of God is being built. And whenever, in any place, a soul by freewilled obedience, catches the fire of God’s likeness, it is set into the growing walls, a living stone.”
We are all living stones in this amazing new temple which God is building. We will think more about that next week when we get to verses 9 and 10. For today we are going to focus on what Peter says about the heart and foundation of this new spiritual building. 4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house
It is the Lord Jesus Christ who is the living stone who is at the heart of God’s new Temple.
6 For in Scripture it says:
‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’
Here Peter is quoting from the prophet Isaiah 28:16.
Isaiah 28 16 So this is what the Sovereign LORD says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.
Isaiah foretold that this tested stone would be the precious foundation stone and cornerstone for the New Temple which God promised to build. The cornerstone was the most important part of the foundations of any building. Of all the stones it had to be shaped most perfectly. It set the directions for all the walls horizontally and vertically. In God’s new Temple, Jesus is the cornerstone. Believers who put their trust in Jesus the living stone and build their lives on him will never be put to shame, never be dismayed. They will never have cause to regret trusting in Jesus.
7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’
Now Peter is quoting Psalm 118:22
‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.’ That is the 2011 New International Version. The 1984 NIV used the translation ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone’. The literal meaning is “the very head of the corner” (NRSV). In ancient architecture the capstone was different in shape from all the other stones in the building or the bridge. But it was perfectly shaped to fit in place and complete the building. Roman arches were built from two columns of stones and where they meet in the centre a triangular stone sits like a wedge in the middle to balance the two sides of the arch and hold them up. That is the capstone. If you remove the capstone, the whole arch falls apart. So the capstone is the most important stone. It would often carry an inscription with a date or the name of an important person. But it was not just a decorative stone. The capstone really was the essential element in the design which holds the whole structure in place.
‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone’ – the most important stone in the arch. ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’ – the most important stone in the whole building. Cornerstone or capstone – either way, it is the most important stone. And in God’s new building, the spiritual temple, Jesus is the capstone. Jesus is the cornerstone.
Psalm 118:22 says, ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone’
Jesus is the most important stone in God’s living building because of who he is, the Son of God, the Creator of everything that exists. And Jesus is the most important stone because of what he has done, dying on the cross for the sins of the world, risen from the dead and ascended on high, reigning as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And that only happened because Jesus was the stone the builders rejected.
Jesus himself said that he was the stone that the builders rejected, in fulfilment of Psalm 118. He told a parable about Tenants in a Vineyard. The parable is an allegory of the ministry of Jesus. The Vineyard is an Old Testament picture of God’s chosen people the nature of Israel. The story tells how the tenants refuse to pay the rent however many messengers the landowner sends. That was a picture of the way the religious leaders of the Jews were ignoring God and the prophets he sent them. So in the end the owner of the vineyard sends his own son, representing Jesus. But the wicked tenants kill the landowner’s son, representing the way the leaders of the Jews rejected God’s Son, Jesus, threw him out of the vineyard and even killed him. And Jesus ends the story by quoting Psalm 118:22 showing how the Old Testament had foretold that rejection.
“ ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone’
Centuries beforehand, the prophet Isaiah had also foretold that God’s chosen people would reject their Messiah. Isaiah chapter 53 looked ahead to the suffering servant who would bring salvation even though his people rejected him. God would use that rejection in amazing way as part of his masterplan of salvation.
Isaiah 53 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
At the moment that Jesus the Lamb of God took the sin of the world on his shoulders He experienced complete rejection, not only by the human race but even by God. That experience of rejection bought our forgiveness and brought us back to God.
We will come back to how 1 Peter understands the death of Jesus to fulfil Isaiah chapter 53 in two weeks time. For today, let’s note that part of Peter’s overall message is that those who follow Jesus should not be surprised or discouraged if the world rejects them. The world rejected Jesus, and the world will reject and persecute his disciples. Jesus said exactly that to his disciples in the Upper Room the night before he was crucified.
John 15 18 ‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.
Jesus was the living stone rejected by men but chosen by God and precious. Jesus was rejected and He warned his disciples that their gospel message would be rejected as well. So when the Apostles experienced rejection and persecution they looked back on what Jesus had said. In Acts Peter and John were taken before the ruling council of Jerusalem the Sanhedrin.
Acts 4 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 He is
“ ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Jesus was indeed the stone which the builders had rejected. So if we build our lives on Jesus, and if we tell the world that Jesus is risen from the dead and insist that salvation is found in no one else, then we should not be surprised if the world rejects us as well.
The stone that the builders rejected. But more than that, in 1 Peter chapter 2 Peter goes on to say, Jesus is
8 , ‘A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’
They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
The cornerstone, the capstone, is also a stumbling block to all who are rebelling against God and rejecting the message of salvation.
Now Peter is quoting Isaiah 8:14
ISAIAH 8 13 The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy,
he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.
14 He will be a holy place; for both Israel and Judah he will be
a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.
And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare.
15 Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken,
they will be snared and captured.’
When people reject Jesus the cornerstone and the capstone of God’s new temple, they stumble and fall. Jesus and the gospel will always be a stumbling block to those who refuse to believe in him. When people rejecting God’s way of salvation, they bring doom on themselves.
Jesus is the living stone, the cornerstone and the capstone.
Jesus is the cornerstone of the church, God’s new community and God’s forever family. This is God’s cosmic masterplan. We are all united in Christ, because Christ is the cornerstone. We don’t need to build the church. That is God’s job. “I will build my church,” Jesus said, “and not even the gates of hell will keep it out.” (Matthew 16:18) God is at work in us all, building his new temple by the power of his Holy Spirit.
Jesus is also the cornerstone of our faith. Jesus is a sure foundation. So we can safely build our lives on the rock of Christ, who is the cornerstone of our faith. When we do that, we will never ever be put to shame. God will never let us down.
In 2 Samuel 22 when God rescued him from Saul, David said this
‘The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; 3 my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my saviour.
God was the rock in David’s life. And Jesus should be the living rock in our lives. Like the wise builder we should build our lives on the solid rock of Jesus and his teaching. He should be our cornerstone, setting the direction of our lives. Jesus should be the centre of everything we are and everything we do.
Jesus is the cornerstone of the church. The cornerstone of faith. And Jesus should be the cornerstone of our lives. Christ is the only sure foundation. All the time, in every way, we should be aiming to build our lives on Christ. Following Jesus. Loving Jesus. Serving Jesus. We should make him our cornerstone!
IN CHRIST ALONE my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground, Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.